Monday, December 5, 2011

What do Santa’s elves make sandwiches with?

        It’s nearly Christmas, and I missed it last year on my blog. I said it was because I was just too busy, but as experienced by many people around the world during the holidays, I get blue during winter and the holidays. I think it’s the lack of sunshine for one. I just can’t function without it. But then there is the god-awful job market. It’s been nearly a year and I still haven’t found a replacement job. But I really think it’s because my father died 22 days before Christmas from a terminal illness the year I turned 14. I think it still affects my ability in some way to really get excited about Christmas. I am making the decision to pull myself up by my bootstraps and get out of this nearly 6 month (ughhh) writing funk I’ve been in.

        So I’ve been listening to my self-prescribed daily dose of Christmas music at maximum volume, and at times, singing along. I put up the Christmas tree and decorations the weekend after Thanksgiving (to the very loud protest of my husband, the Grinch) and this week I start baking.  I made cranberry chutney for neighbor gifts during Thanksgiving, but it’s the sweets that really make the season. The problem is sweets really give me a tummy ache and sometimes a toothache so I lean toward the lesser sweet items during the year, but Christmas calls for pulling out the big guns - Paula Deans of butter and pounds of sugar. Today Shortbread made the top of the Must-Make List. I love shortbread. So sweet and buttery and smooth and tender – especially with a hot cup of coffee…excuse me for a minute while I go top off my cup.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sweetest of the sweet!

Sweet corn is close to my heart.  There were summers on the farm that sweet corn was growing out our ears, or so the saying goes.  I did have a traumatic corn summer once.  Our crop had been so successful, and the farmer’s almanac had predicted that there would be a big storm coming through so we had to get this multitude of corn in (picked, shucked, and canned) before it was ruined.  We had blisters and cuts all over our hands, and by the middle of it I was sick and tired of sweet corn. 
In our home, my bedroom was closest to the living room and one night during corn-week-from-hell, after going to bed and promptly passing out, my parents heard me talking in my sleep.  They came to investigate and I was mumbling “corn, corn”. I think I had had enough, don’t you?!
Well now days, it irks me when I go to the supermarket and I want to buy sweet corn and all that is available is “CORN”. Well, is it Sundance, Jubilee, Country Gentleman, Silver Queen (my first fav!), Butter & Sugar (my other fav!) or some other monstrosity? Then I have to open up an ear looking for the sweetest of the sweet and try to guess its nature like a litter of newborn kittens. I have the same reaction when I go shopping for peaches? Is it a clingstone, or a freestone, or a semi-freestone (which just get me annoyed because for a second there you think you have a freestone until it’s not), and even then what variety is it?
Well no matter what kind of sweet corn you find at the supermarket, even if it’s not the sweetest variety available, you can coax the sweetness out by roasting it.  This is even possible with frozen sweet corn. The following is my recipe for a Shrimp, Roasted Corn and Avocado salad that I have been working on. It was a hit at the going away party this weekend. I hope you love it too. It’s perfect for summer.

Friday, July 1, 2011

You can call it a cobbler or a baked fruit thingy...anything but a crumble.

Being from the Deep South, I, as most good southern cooks, have very narrow definitions of what certain foods are. The following foods fall in this category: Jam/Jelly, Casserole/Bake, Stew/Soup and the list goes on.  Seeing as how I married a good ol' New York Yankee boy, none of these foods are more contested than the Cobbler/Crumble.  A line has been drawn in our family that is reminiscent of the Dixie and after 16 years of marriage, there is no way I'm budging on this one. The following is a recipe that I have perfected for a fruit cobbler.  It is not in any way, shape or form, to be confused with a crumble - other than the fact that they are both baked, in an oven, in casserole dishes. 

The fruit cobbler is a dish of necessity.  Back when refrigeration was not the norm, either you ate it or canned it. The fruit that was going to waste that could not make it through the canning process because it would spoil first was thrown into a pan and baked either in a pie or in a less uppity, cobbler. There is no one way to make it, it is "cobbled" together by what is on hand, but below is an outline on where to start.  

A True Southern Girl's Fruit Cobbler (PRINTABLE RECIPE)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Veggies for naughty time?

So the job search is going nowhere, but we are still planning on moving in August so we have been driving back and forth from Seattle to Spokane as often as we can to look at homes.  We have found the perfect house, but we were not sure if the bank thought it was the perfect house, hense the following recipe. I have found the perfect way to unwind this summer (or at least forget about the underwriters for a moment), and there is not a soul that will stand in my way. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sing a song of Salmon!

I have been uber busy lately, starting my own business, ushering the girls to skate practice (I now have two Jr Derby-ers) and trying to keep my head above the preverbal waters. My husband is an addict to his martial arts and decided recently to enter a submission wrestling competition, his first in three years.  What that means for our family is that Dad has had longer hours at the gym (longer than normal) and dinner is often less exciting (lower in fat and calories) and more expensive (higher costs due to finer proteins like salmon). This should be depressing, but I have learned to take ½ to ¾ pound of salmon to feed five - and only by portion restriction, do we stop eating. I love salmon anyway. It is such a luxurious fish - sweet and fatty and yet lean and very filling.  I really could eat it every day. I need my own fish hatchery in my back yard, but those pesky little critters taste better when swimming out there with their own favorite critters to eat, and not stuck in a pool eating what amounts to dog food pellets. I digress.
The salmon salad that I'm serving for dinner, I've been daydreaming about since breakfast.  It is the perfect dinner in this springy weather we have been having. I hope you think it is as great as I do! Now you could take this salmon and just eat a big fillet, 4-6 ounces, of it as a main course with a side of fresh steamed veggies and lemon rice, but this salad cuts the protein consumption in nearly half, and compensates for super low calorie lettuce and salad fixins that have great nutritional content. Either way you choose to prepare it, it is still fabulous!

Salmon Salad

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Something to Hummus about!

When I was pregnant with my children – all three of them- I had gestational diabetes. For the first one it was diet controlled, the second it was needles and needles of insulin – seven times a day-, and the third it was diet controlled again. What I’ve found though is that I still have issues with maintaining my blood sugar. If I forget to eat, or eat the wrong combination of proteins and carbs I will have a hypoglycemic episode then all hell breaks loose and I will eat everything in site to quell the shakes, and it is intense. I feel like I look like a junkie out of control. It is the most awful feeling.

Thankfully, since this disorder has become a lifestyle, the dips happen infrequently, only 3-4 times a year, and I live day to day without having to really think about it any more. But most often, when I think about protein in my diet, the options are always so fatty which makes a low fat diet impossible. Nuts are fatty too, but it’s the good fatty stuff so I allow myself a handful once in a while. Meat however, is crucial to my diet. We balance chicken, lean pork and lean beef almost evenly and then we will occasionally substitute in fish (love it) and tofu (learned thru trial and error to make it correctly and now love it too!). Cottage cheese is relatively low fat and high in protein as is yogurt. And then legumes, like chickpeas, today's feature protein!

Monday, February 14, 2011

If the world were made of candy, this would be my bed!

(I found this sitting in my drafts bin! I started this back in January and then I lost my job...I guess I got a little distracted and forgot to post it.)

A few weeks back my cousin’s little boy, Chandler, was watching her read my blog and asked her what she was doing.  She told him that she was reading my recipes and his question was, “Can Tonya send me a recipe?”. Who could turn that down?! So I thought and thought about what my kids favorite treats are that I make that maybe he would like too, and the one answer was Caramel Popcorn. My kids will devour it, and sometimes I don’t get a single piece.  Caramel popcorn was something that I thought had to come out of metal tins sold by kids in various uniforms, but it’s not true.  You can make really good caramel popcorn in your own home with very little effort. 

***PLEASE BE WARNED***  The caramel mixture is very hot and since it is a sugar mixture, when it meets skin, it sticks and it will give you the most horrible burn. It can be very dangerous. So, please do not let your little ones “help” with this one.  They can watch from a safe distance and still enjoy the fun.  When the kids were really small I would to make it after the kids had gone to bed or during nap time, just to be safe.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


So a long while back a reader, Brandon B, asked for something flavorful and exciting. He is stuck in a rut eating organic chicken and brown rice which I would consider a very healthy torture technique. First, I would advise Brandon, and any of you others who are interested, to read the book “The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” by Michael Pollan (primarily because Michael’s narrative is most easily readable and digestible by the general population, however there are many other great reads out there). Most organic poultry isn’t anywhere worth the price you would be paying especially if you are buying it in any supermarket, unless it has the farmer’s name on it. However, there is a number of ‘real’ free range and ‘truly’ organic poultry farms in the US where you can buy direct from the farmer. Those are worth the money you spend.

So Brandon, today, I am going to give you a great recipe for simple, flavorful, pan roasted chicken and teach you how to make a pan sauce with it. I really do not like cooking chicken breasts and never really use them, but I will for you. They are so often boring and dry - an ugly flaccid slab of white meat, only useful for nutritious intake, but certainly not for visual appeal. But not today.

On the subject of brown rice…um, why? I know you probably don’t eat it every day, but this is America! You have options! Quinoa, barley, spelt, farro, couscous, corn…Today I’m choosing for you and it is Quinoa.

Friday, January 21, 2011

My parental advice - lie to your children!

It’s nearly that time again. I’m sure all of you mother’s out there know what I’m talking about. It’s that moment when your kids arrive home from school and eat everything in sight, as if they haven’t eaten a morsel since you packed them off this morning. How then do you keep them from being bored and not always grabbing for the sugary nonsense snacks?

Trick them! It’s the best thing about being a Mom. You can lie without impunity in order to keep them safe and healthy - right?  I have one of the greatest recipe lies out there in the food trickery world. They think they are getting a decadent, sugary snack, when in fact they are getting a single or even double serving of fruit and a serving of dairy and they’ll be begging for more. How’s that for a trick?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dim Sum good dumplings

I lost my day job last week. I had been hanging on by a thread since right after Thanksgiving and right before Christmas which is why I’ve been MIA since that time.  Granted that job didn’t bring me nearly as much joy as cooking does, it certainly paid for the ingredients. So until future notice, I am on a shoestring budget while trying to keep the same level of flavor and interest in my daily dinners for my family. I welcome the challenge.

So yesterday afternoon I opened the fridge to assess my fixin’s and they were slim! I had some pork chops that I got on clearance, a scant bunch of cilantro, a half a head of cabbage. But what I really wanted was pot stickers. So I headed off to the store and bought ginger, Thai basil, and gyoza wrappers and headed home to play. I really wasn’t sure where I was going when I started (that happened often) so I made enough filling for 12 dozen! Yes, way too many for just a dinner, but they freeze easily and are perfect for a quick, healthy dinner in just 5-10 minutes. An hour and a half later I had 8.5 dozen pot stickers with enough filling for 4 dozen more or in other terms 3 dinners for a family of five at a price of $10.00! Sweet! I’m thinking that is a pretty good deal.

I have paired down my recipe to make about 40 because that is the number of gyoza wrappers in a single pack. There are a few items that make it super easy to make your own dumplings. A food processor to mince your filling, a bamboo steamer to cook them in a healthy way, and a dumpling gadget for about $1.00 (this is crucial since I am a white girl without a surrogate Asian grandma), cooking spray, time and patience.